When Future and crew traveled to the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, the clique came back from the United Arab Emirates one man short.
DJ Esco got locked up for marijuana possession and would spend the next 56 days behind bars in Dubai fighting for his freedom, where the justice system is decidedly different than in the States.
In his own words, as told to The Fader, Future’s deejay recounted the prison nightmare that started inside the Abu Dhabi airport, where he was stopped by an officer as he was trying to keep track of everyone's luggage. “We land in Abu Dhabi and I'm just walkin' through the airport and I got everybody's bags. Probably, like, 20 or 30 bags,” he said. “It's a whole buncha bags that we pushin'. And I didn't realize at the time that discrimination might be an issue, so I'm just walking around and thinking everything's normal.”
Future’s cameraman happened to be recording their trip, which is prohibited in the airport. An officer made him delete all footage and photos in the camera and proceded to search all of the bags. A “fairy dust particle of weed” was found in Esco’s backpack and he was immediately taken into custody. Over the next three months, he would befriend a warden, learn about Islam and hold a conversation with a former member of the Taliban.
According to Esco, Dubai doesn’t differentiate between levels of offenses, so he was put in the same boat as big time drug offenders and a man who had allegedly spent decades in prison for stealing a candy bar. Also unlike the U.S., “innocent until proven guilty” doesn't stand, and as Esco remembers it, there is no judge and jury, just a prosecutor who can “just do what he wants.”
Luckily, the warden contacted the prosecutor on the case and apparently got Esco out much faster than the U.S. Embassy could have. “To make a long story short, the warden blessed me. He took a liking to me, taught me some things about Islam and we ended up growing our own relationship. He's the one who ended up helping me when my lawyer told me it might be six months, a year, or four years. I was sitting there in a daze after my lawyer left, thinking 'bout what I'm gonna do for the next year or whatever in here, and the warden came in and he was like, 'It's not in my job description and I really don't care about your case, but I've come to like you as a person. I'm not suppose to do this, but I'm going to call your prosecutor.' I couldn't even get the U.S. Embassy to call the prosecutor!”
That one call got him released and eventually back home in the U.S., where he reunited with his family. He won’t forget the UAE experience though.
“When I left, it was real dope. Everybody from the African and the Arabic side came out of their cell and walked me to the door. Everybody was like, ‘America! Going home, America!’ Everyone from both sides was clapping. That s**t was dope, 'cause for that moment everyone was just on the same level. Everyone was the same. Everyone was just happy to see me walk out.”
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(Photo: Prince Williams/FilmMagic)